By Michael Hann
TOP meets bottom in the Premier League on Saturday when leaders Chelsea make the short trip across west London to Fulham (5pm) looking to consolidate their title bid and increase the relegation worries of their neighbours.
With third-placed Manchester City playing Sunderland in the Capital One (League) Cup final at Wembley on Sunday (4pm) , Chelsea can increase their advantage over Manuel Pellegrini’s side to six points.
Chelsea top the table with 60 points from 27 games, one more than Arsenal (59), who are away at Stoke this afternoon (5pm), and three clear of City, who have 57 from 26 games. Liverpool are fourth on 56.
Jose Mourinho’s side last lost to Fulham in 2006, the year they won their second successive league title, and they drew 1-1 at Galatasaray in the Champions league on Wednesday.
“We just want to try to keep our position and not give it up for free to our opponents,” said the Portuguese, whose side went top three weeks ago.
“We have to fight, we have to play. Every victory keeps us there, every defeat or draw we lose our position.”
Fulham, without a win in seven, will be hoping to give new German coach Felix Magath a victory in his second game in charge after drawing against West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
Second-placed Arsenal, who beat Sunderland 4-1 in their last outing, travel to Stoke on Saturday (5pm) having found wins hard to come by at the Britannia Stadium.
Arsene Wenger has not seen his side beat Stoke in their last three trips to the Potteries and the Frenchman will be without left back Kieran Gibbs who has a hamstring injury.
“We are still there in the table,” Wenger said after the victory over Sunderland. “It is down to consistency and our performances.”
Stoke, who have won once in their last six league matches, are three points above the relegation zone but will be boosted by the return of German defender Robert Huth.
Liverpool continue to breathe down the necks of the top three and travel to the south coast to play Southampton in Saturday’s late kick-off (7.30pm), with in-form Daniel Sturridge bidding to find the net in his ninth consecutive Premier League match.
“He looks like he can score in every single game,” manager Brendan Rodgers said of Sturridge after he scored twice against Swansea last Sunday.
“He’s got that ability, he’s got the quality and thankfully he plays for us here, and has still got a lot of improving to do.”
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino has triumphed over Liverpool in the last two meetings between the sides, but after slumping to a 3-1 defeat against West Ham United they have now won once in their last six games.
West Ham will have Andy Carroll back in contention for their trip to Everton (5pm) after the England striker served a three-match ban.
Sam Allardyce’s men have eased their relegation fears in recent weeks as four wins in a row has seen them shoot up to 10th in the table.
In contrast, Roberto Martinez’s seventh-placed Everton, who have not lost to West Ham in the last 12 meetings, have dropped off the pace after losing back-to-back league matches.
They will be without injured on-loan striker Lacina Traore, but top scorer Romelu Lukaku is pushing for a return after an ankle problem.
On Sunday, Tottenham host Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s struggling Cardiff City (6.30pm) with head coach Tim Sherwood calling on his side to show “character” following a poor display in a 1-0 defeat at Norwich City last weekend.
“Good players and good teams come back when they’re down and that’s what we’ve got to do straight away,” said Sherwood, whose side are fifth on 50 points.
Norwegian Solskjaer has found life difficult since taking charge of Cardiff and with one win away from home in the league this season, prospects look bleak for the 19th placed side.